The Pear Tree Inn, Oxfordshire, England
Brewery Lane, Hook Norton
Hailed as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds epitomize old world rustic charm. All manner of settings from stone manors and churches to gardens draw fans of European history as well as those who pursue modern leisure (rhyming with pleasure, of course) such as horseback riding or hot-air ballooning. One of the counties tucked into this southwest region is Oxfordshire, where you’ll find the village of Hook Norton. Here in 1849 is where the brewery started.
Many historic British breweries still operate inns and public houses, (abbreviated to pubs), where the beers served are tied to the local brewery thereby making them tied houses as opposed to free houses. One of four such pubs in this village is The Pear Tree Inn, named for its central fruit tree. It’s cited as a favourite by Jon Howard, press manager of the Campaign for Real Ale. Having CAMRA’s seal of approval is all-important when visiting the United Kingdom.
Howard says the Pear Tree Inn in front of the Hook Norton brewery is perfect for those who, “want a rural aesthetic (while) being able to walk right into the brewery every morning.” The inn’s pub welcomes guests with a log-burning stone fireplace and hop garlands streaming from the single wooden beam.
Hook Norton’s real ales (and beers, which are differentiated by being bottled rather than served on cask) are the epitome of British sessionable beers—low alcohol and made only from the four basic ingredients. After touring the Visitor Centre and museum, guests are welcome to sample, but no visit is replete without several proper pints of Hooky Bitter. At only 3.6 percent alcohol, you’ll be able to keep your wits about you as you stroll through the countryside. Walk to lunch at Gate Hangs High, another Hooky inn with a renowned gastro pub. Drive to nearby Hidcote Manor Gardens and Oxford University. Ideally, plan your trip for July to enjoy Music at the Crossroads, the annual music fest, and Hooky’s own Festival of Fine Ales with a lineup of casks from roughly 100 British breweries.